Timeline of Egyptian reactions to blasphemy and insults to Islam

Zeinab El-Gundy , Thursday 15 Jan 2015

Ahram Online takes a look at Egyptian reactions to western publications regarded as offensive to Islam and its Prophet Mohammed over the past decade

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Ten years ago, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten angered millions of Muslims around the world by negatively depicting the Prophet Mohammed in cartoons, a direct challenge to the Sunni Muslim prohibition on representations of religious prophets - positive or otherwise.

Other western publications and film-makers followed suit and continued to depict the Prophet - all negatively - in cartoons and films.

Ahram Online takes a look at the most famous cases that caused both official and public anger in Egypt over the past several years. 

Danish cartoons -- 2005

In September 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons negatively depicting the Prophet Mohammed. These sparked a wave of anger and violent protests in Muslim countries, including Egypt, but only a few months later.

In Syria, the Danish embassy was burned by angry protesters. 

In Egypt, hundreds of thousands of Muslims protested after Friday prayers at Al-Azhar University. 

In December 2005, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayid Tantawy issued an official statement slamming the newspapers and its cartoons and calling on the UN to intervene to stop insults against the prophet. The Egyptian government also threatened Denmark - a country which provides economic aid to Cairo - with an economic embargo.   

Aside from angry protests at Al-Azhar and calls to sever diplomatic relations with Denmark, a sizeable campaign to boycott Danish products took place. Major supermarket chains and small groceries took pride in declaring that they did not sell Danish products. 

“we boycott Danish products” reads a sign in a small supermarket in Cairo as part of a national boycott campaign, 2006 (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Dutch anti-Islam film -- 2008

Produced by controversial right wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders in 2008, Fitna, a short film which shows Islam as a religion of "hate and violence," triggered angry reactions in the Muslim world, including Egypt, but not as violent or loud as reactions to the Danish cartoons. Again a boycott campaign was adopted

Charlie Hebdo's special issue -- November 2011

The famous satirical magazine had its share of controversy since 2005 when it began publishing cartoons negatively depicting Prophet Mohammed. Over the years, the offensive cartoons created anger among millions of Muslims. However the paper's decision in November 2011 to publish an entire issue dedicated to the Prophet Mohammed generated furious reactions inside and outside France.

In Egypt, the then-powerful Muslim Brotherhood's Saad El-Katatny slammed the French magazine and called on Islamic institutions such as Al-Azhar to react against the French magazine's insults.

Charlie Hebdo 2012
Egyptians protest against the decision to publish nude cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in front of the French embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Sep. 21, 2012 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Innocence of Islam -- 2012

Produced in 2012, the American film Innocence of Islam, which mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, unleashed violent reactions all over the Muslim world in which angry protesters attacked US diplomatic missions. The US embassy in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and four diplomats were killed, including the ambassador himself.

In Egypt, angry protests were organised by ultra-conservative Salafists on 11 September 2012 at the US embassy in Cairo. Dozens of protesters climbed over the embassy's wall and replaced the US flag with a black one.

The protest turned in to clashes between security forces and protesters and controversial radical Islamic preacher Abu-Islam burnt a copy of the Bible.

The controversial preacher was sentenced in June 2013 to 11 years in jail and a LE3,000 fine over the incident, a sentence that was reduced in December to five years. In July 2013, he was convicted of insulting Christianity and was sentenced three years in jail.

Anti-Islam American film
A protester carrying a flag throws stones at police during a demonstration, condemning a U.S.-made film which they say insults the Prophet Mohammad, near the U.S. embassy in Cairo, September 14, 2012. The flag reads, "There is no God but God and Mohammad is his messanger." (Photo: Reuters)

Charlie Hebdo attack and re-publishing offensive cartoons -- 2015

Last week, the Paris office of French magazine Charlie Hebdo was stormed by Islamist militants.

They killed 11 members of staff over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published since 2011.

In its Wednesday issue Charlie Hebdo republished the controversial cartoons and a new cartoon depicting Prophet Mohammed on its cover.

Al-Azhar issued a statement condemning the attack against the magazine last week. Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayib called on Muslims to ignore what he described as the "nasty frivolity " of Charlie Hebdo.

President El-Sisi also gave the Egyptian cabinet the power to ban foreign publications that insult religion.

So far there have been no calls for protests to condemn the actions of Charlie Hebdo.  

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